Sunday, November 30, 2008

violence's faces

So much violence.

Last Sunday, a group of Alto Velo riders descended Skyline toward the intersection of Highway 84, near the Woodside-Skylonda border. A driver made an illegal left turn, colliding with Ileana Parker. She was badly injured, with multiple fractures, and a nearly severed finger. It's going to be a long, hard recovery. A moment's carelessness by the driver, months of pain and tens of thousands of dollars of expense for Ileana. Violence? Well, to me the question is: if the result of a car-bike collision was generally death for the driver, then would drivers be more alert for cyclists before making turns? And if the answer is yes, then isn't the careless driver trading cyclist risk for personal convenience? And over a population, since the possibility of injury becomes a near-certainty of injury, doesn't this mean careless drivers are trading cycling injury and death for expedience and laziness? And isn't this violence?

It was a clearer case on Monday. At around 5:20pm, Mark Pendleton was climbing McEwen Road south of Port Costa. A vehicle, likely a Chevrolet Silverado pickup, went across the center line as it descended, hitting Mark head-on. The truck fled, leaving behind debris and paint chips. Mark's body was found later. There's no question here: violence as naked as violence can be.

Wednesday, I'm working out in the gym. On the television overhead, terrorists have attacked civilians in Bombay. I'm sure everyone knows the story. The numbers become meaningless: 1 dead, 2 dead, 174 dead. One way or another, it's all the same. Violence.

Thanksgiving. Bob Mionske posts his legal column in He discusses Ed Farrar, father of Garmin-Chipotle pro racer Tyler Ferrar, who is recovering from injuries he received from a careless driver. And Chris Kasztelewicz, whose leg was severed by a driver in a "road-rage" incident. Road or not, it's naked violence, all the same.

Friday. I join Cara and members of her extended family to see Milk at its opening on the 30th anniversary of Harvey Milk's murder. Multiple layers of violence. Sure, the shooting at close range of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Mascone is violence by any definition. But so is the persistent anti-gay discrimination against which Milk was so very dedicated. How can it be anything but violence to intentionally harm a segment of the population? And to deprive that segment of the population of basic rights is to harm them. No question.

This morning, 8:28 am. I line up for the Run Wild for a Child 10 km running race. The water station has been moved, we are told, due to a homicide on the course. It's been cleaned up in time for the run, but not in time to have set up the water there.

Humans are a violant species. Our capacity for violence is seemingly endless. This is reality. So are we condemned to kill, to maim, to harm?

Garmin-Chipotle rider Tom Danielson was interviewed in VeloNews this week. I normally don't read pro rider interviews; same-old, same-old. But for some reason I checked out this one. I found his quote striking:

All the time in cycling, I think. Your brain can be your best friend or your enemy. If you can break it down to, ‘I must kill everyone,’ or ‘I must destroy,’ then you’re fine. But if you start thinking, ‘Do I really need to be doing this? It’s raining out. The road is slippery. People are crashing everywhere. It’s cold. My whole body hurts.’ That’s when it’s negative, and the desk job seems quite good. But if you can use your mind to make your body like a motorcycle — you just turn the throttle and go — if you can make it like that, you’re fine. That’s normally how it is in training, you take out the elements of stress and performance, and you enjoy it. That’s the key to racing.

So tapping into that innate violence, Tom says, is the key to racing well. When faced with violence, when anticipating violence, the body changes. Normal thresholds of inhibition and fatigue are relaxed. We push ourselves harder, longer, and faster than we otherwise would.

Compare and contrast with Chi Running. Chi Running is all about relaxing into an effort. About feeling the body flow as it runs. Setting up the structural integrity to efficiently produce forward motion, and letting the body produce that motion. Motion through a quiet mind, motion through peace.

I was contemplating this duality as I rode the Low-Key Hillclimb of Mount Hamilton Road on Thanksgiving morning. Retreat into the self, calmness of mind and body, through most of the climb. But approaching the end, embrace the violence within, break out of the shell of the self, and attack. Tapping into different parts of ourselves, or different paths into the same self?

Again, today, in my second 10 km race of the year. For most of the race, calmness, relax, focus on the breath. Running is so inherently peaceful in its pain. Three slow breaths out, two breaths in. A bit of pain appears: relax it away. Apex a corner, line up for the next. Immersed in the now. But approaching the finish, the peace is broken. That runner ahead: I MUST...CATCH,.... MUST.... DESTROY.

Through cycling, through running, peace and violence merge. If more of us rode, if more of us ran, would violence's damaging faces become less common? I think so.

Monday, November 24, 2008

going long

I did another long run yesterday. Again, no pressure on going fast, pushing it only on the Lyon Street stairs. Curiously, I was feeling a big bogged down going into the stairs, but they seemed to really open things up, and I felt like I was cruising from there back home. That didn't stop me from being tired, afterwards...

rate of improvement for marathon goal
Rate of improvement needed to reach endurance goal for Austin

So the question is: where do I stand with respect to a 15 Feb marathon goal? Pretty good, it seems. If I assume this run was my endurance limit, which clearly it was not, to target race-level endurance 4 weeks prior to race data, I need to improve by 6.04% per week to reach that goal. That's very doable: I've seen a maximum rate of improvement of 10%/week claimed.

What do I know about marathon training? Not much. A handful of Running Magazine articles, some web pages, yadayada. The longest competitive run I've done is 10 km. My coach could address these issues much better than I can. But it seems to me preparing for a marathon is simple. There's only two components: distance and speed. Bike racing, with all of its tactical accelerations, is more complex, but in running allows one to settle into a sustainable pace and hold it. So that's it: distance and speed. Only at the event do you push each of these elements, together, to their limits.

So, for preparation, the goals are, addressed concurrently:
  1. Bring endurance up to the desired level.
  2. Bring time able to sustain target speed up to within striking distance of the goal.

The first of these is simple: run long, then ramp that up. That's going really well. The second is subtler. One way might be to go out race pace, then ramp up the distance. But an alternative is to train above race pace at a reduced distance, then backing off the pace on race day. My prescribed speed work to data has been more of this second option. Running repeats at 400 meters to 1200 meters (only two of these workouts do far), with some tempo intervals of a few kilometers each. Additionally, I've taken the initiative target a few races along the way, 10 km road races and middle distance trail runs slightly longer, to give myself experience running a race pace (actually faster than my marathon target pace) in competition. My next race on this schedule is the Run Wild for a Child 10km in Golden Gate Park. Then early December brings trail runs.

There is a Daniels formula for converting comparable paces between different distances. A good calculator is available on-line. I suspect this is related to the critical power model for cycling, which serves a similar role. The issue with the critical power model is that there's no universal conversion scheme. Individuals differ depending on their relative values for, in the model, "critical power" (sustainable aerobic power) and "anaerobic work capacity" (expendable anaerobic power). In cycling, my ratio of anaerobic to aerobic to power is relatively low: I can't ramp up my effort at shorter durations as well as an average cyclist. If this also applies to running, then it implies the Daniels predictions of my marathon pace, based on shorter distance results, would be pessimistic. However, this is only true if I'm limited by my available power, and not my muscular endurance, specific adaptation. My adaptation seems to be improving every week. I feel better in my runs and recover from them better. So I am cautiously optimistic. Qualifying for Boston seems an attainable goal. Daniels already says I can get there.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cantadas - Mahler

Saturday... one of those days where everything goes well.

Low-Key week 8!First, Cara and I went out to Lomas Cantadas for week 8 of the 2008 Low-Key Hillclimbs. In short, virtually everything went well: the weather, the volunteers, my riding, and the results prep after the climb. After enjoying myself in the Orinda Starbucks, entering results, I had them posted by around noon. Then I met Cara who was sampling the smoothie offerings of scenic Orinda, and we drove back home to meet an old friend of mine who would be staying over while she's in town.

Then dinner: a pleasant surprise. We had reservations for Cara's birthday at Sauce, a San Francisco mid-upscale "comfort food" place. It has about the least attractive menu I could imagine: all meat and cheese and, obviously, sauce. I went off-menu, asking for "steamed vegetables". The chefs couldn't didn't want to leave it with that, though, and prepared some mildly sauteed selections, rich in asparagus which I really like, which was as good an option as I could have hoped for. Quite nice, altogether, and topped off with some Tazo "Comfort" tea, a nice blend of Chamomile and Licorice root, among other flavors.

American Premier
The US Premier: SF was more restrained.
Then the Symphony.... we made it just in time for the 7pm pre-concert talk, which I always enjoy, then the paradigm of spectacular (short of live cannon) symphonic works, Mahler's Eighth, the "Symphony of a Thousand" (okay, I only counted 340 musicians last night, but that was plenty). This is the last in the full series of Mahler symphonies being recorded by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. It really was remarkable.... the second of two movements takes a full hour, and although I thought it tended to drag a bit in the middle, the climax was wonderful. Mahler is a different experience than work from the popular composers who preceded him.... the Eighth was written only 102 years ago. To me, it's about the sound. The music has a presence that is hard to match, and in the Eighth, he brought together an incredible range of options and managed to keep it coherent. The incorporation of the Symphony organ was icing on the cake, and it was seemlessly integrated, not as dominating as an organ can so easily be. When the principal percussionist brought out a huge mallet, poised in front of the gong, I knew the work was drawing to its exciting close. And that close left the crowd ecstatic. Highlight: the boy's and girl's choirs. I love a good melding of chorus and orchestra, and they don't get much better than this one. The most famous such work is clearly Beethoven's Ninth, but unlike Beethoven's work, Mahler's Eight doesn't push its solists into the listener's face. So while I wouldn't say that this was my favorite symphony in terms of pure music, the impact of the live performance was really special. And MTT's crew always seems to elevate its game when it's recording, not that it's not strong otherwise.

So, a great day. A wonderful climb, a surprisingly nice dinner, a chance to host an old friend, and the magic of live music at its best.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

recovery 0.488 × marathon....

Yesterday, after bailing on my tempo run because of leg fatigue, I put in a serious session of foam rolling and stretching. No doubt about it, the front of my quads were sore. That's never happened from cycling alone, yet I've hardly been cycling alone.

The first sign something was up had been the Noon Ride. Running has caused me to lose a bit of weight, and I decided to test my climbing, as well as my pain tolerance, on Old La Honda Road, which the Nooner climbs each Wednesday. Although I was able to keep it on the dark side of my pain threshold the whole way up and was alone, first to the top of the climb, my time, 17:59, was a bit disappointing. When I emailed Cara about it, she noted my Mon run. A dose of reality. No, I can't run a near-half-marathon yet without impact.

Back two days, to Monday...

My excellent coach Dan Smith prescribed a 30-minute recovery run. Yet I was itching for action, energized by Saturday's Low-Key Hillclimb up Metcalf Road, which I ran. So I decided to just park it into a gear of "effortless running", and see if I could rip off my longest run ever.

And I did.

First, I headed out on 8th Street to Brennan to REI. My only running shirt is long-sleeve. I borrowed a short-sleeve shirt from Cara, but it was too baggy, and I don't want something which is going to contribute so clearly to wind resistance, let alone that baggy shirts look goofy. REI wasn't very helpful, though: even their men's small summer "technical" shirt was similarly sized, and I couldn't find a good women's shirt, so I left the store and continued north-east on Brennan. My legs were a bit stiff, but I was running into looseness, feeling pretty good.

Along the Embarcadero and I was on the Dolphin 10km course. Memories of my race a few weeks ago, just a lot more relaxed this time. Soon, it seemed, I passed the yacht club, site of the start-finish of the race.

After arriving at the foot of the climb at Fort Mason, I impulsively headed out on a cool-looking, semi-circular breakwater and pier. "No taking Dungess Crabs", a sign read, as someone fished a basket out of the water below. He had something in there, but it wasn't a Dungess, I thought. I continued out to the end, where the views were really spectacular: the city on one side, Alcatraz on the other. Then, around a ruined structure, and back to my route. I was surprised to later find this section was on Google Maps (see link earlier this paragraph). This was one of the two highlights of this run.

Over Fort Mason (no big deal), then out on the Marina, past Fillmore where I'd turned inland last time (I was committed to my longest, now!), and toward the Golden Gate Bridge. But not all the way there... at Baker Street, I made a left. Baker now rose ominously ahead of me.

After passing the incredible Palace of Fine Arts, the park populated by tourists speaking French, Italian, but not a word of English, I confronted the climb. It was like Lyon which I'd done previously, on a shorter route. Several blocks of increasing grade until the road gives way to a staircase. However, unlike at Lyon, the staircase then gives way to an as-steep concrete path. The thing has to be 40%, easy. It was challenging on foot; I could only imagine riding it! This was highlight #2.

To the top, I turned right to climb an additional block to what appeared to be the summit. This road, one block over, was actually Lyon Road, which I'd climbed previously. What an excellent climb each of these two roads provides!

I enjoyed the descent of the other side. Descents are all about staying loose, going with the flow, and I'm getting better at them. At Post, before Geary, I turned left to Steiner, to the cycling route I know so well.

Then it was through Western Addition, up the climb to Alamo Square (cutting through the park via the stairs, which I can't do on a bike), down to Duboce, the zig-zag over the tracks to Steiner's sibling Sanchez, then toward Market Street and the Castro.

I was on autopilot now. 16th St, all the way. The streets I call home passed by. Guerrero... Dolores... Valencia... Market. At Florida, I turned left for a stop in Sports Basement. Bingo! They had an excellent running shirt, plain white except for a Sports Basement logo, and light and cheap. The woman working there I could "express my love for Sports Basement" by wearing it. The Sports Basement there does have a good feel about it. Good people work there.

Across Franklin Park to 17th (feeling a bit tired now), back to Potrero Hill....

Austin!12.8 miles, according to Google. 48.8% of a marathon, according to units. I felt good, energized if a bit tired. The next day was a recovery day, gym workout only. But I'd still feel this run two days after. Still, I love getting the miles in. And that's gotta be good for something when preparing for a possible marathon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

contrast in styles

A study in contrast.... finish photos (by Gary Griffin) from the Metcalf Low-Key Hillclimb:

Dan vs Gary
Comparing Gary Gellin's and my foot-falls at finish of Metcalf Low-Key Hillclimb.

Now no criticism of Gary; the man wins trail runs with time to spare. Really an inspiring runner.

Compare with Haile Gebrselassie, arguably the best distance runner on record.
Haile Gebrselassie (left)

Haile appears to not strike his heal, although against the principles of Chi Running, he is getting his foot out in front of him. Now this is a full-out sprint on the track, not steady-state. In this excellent video of Haille setting the world record at the Berlin Marathon, his running form appears more Chi-compliant. He is truly an inspiring image of economy and speed:

As my friend Nathan said, "I don't think Haile read Dreyer, I think Dreyer read Haile."

So I'm happy with my foot-strike, but I've got to find more economy and speed in my form. Okay, I won't be breaking 2:04 in marathons any time soon or not-so-soon, but surely I'm good for trimming that extra 76 seconds off my 10-km time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Paradise Plus

It's Tuesday, and I'm coming off two days of contrast: an excellent ride, and excellent run. On Sunday, for the first time in awhile, I rode the Paradise Loop. There's a variety of options on the loop: my personal favorite is to head over Camino Alto, always a great little climb and descent, then turn right onto Tamalpais, cross 101, right on Paradise Drive, ride along the coast with its curiously scenic views of San Quentin State Prison, left at the intersection with Trestle Glen to stay on Paradise, then left in Tiburon proper onto Main Street. Then it's through super-exclusive Tiburon to the traffic circle of even more exclusive Belvedere.

Henry Kingman's excellent San Francisco riding guide
From here, almost every group ride I've done has born right onto San Rafael Ave, the shortest way back. But dull, dull, dull! Henry Kingman,in his excellent book,
Short Bike Rides of San Francisco, describes a far more scenic route, one which, being the navigationally challenged rider I am, was at one time reluctant to try. But I happened across one day a group riding from Endurance Training Center in Mill Valley and I followed them... Stay on the traffic circle to Ocean, and you launch into one of the most scenic residential roads anywhere. It's a spectular one-lane-wide (yet two way) ribbon of pavement which snakes up the side of the hill, luxurious houses precariously perched on the adjacent hillside. When there, I'm 75% soaking up the view over the water to the left, 25% hoping there's no on-coming vehicular traffic. It has the feel not of San Francisco, but more of San Remo, raging over the Poggio at the end of the Prima Vera. Okay, not as fast as that :).

As the climb levels out, Ocean becoming Belvedere Ave, you reach a fork in the road, and again two options... The road more traveled: bear left, stay on Belvedere Ave, and descend. I like to climb, however, so instead make the sharp right onto Pine Street, then bear left onto the false flat of Golden Gate Ave. Then I go with the flow until a descent, somewhat spoiled by stop signs, to the intersection back with Belvedere. Continue downward, back onto San Rafael. Continue left, turning onto the bike path. Kids on mini-bikes, roller-bladers, oblivious dog-walkers... It's all good.

I'm sure nobody has read this far. But if you have, I found a MotionBased route which describes it. That page, though describes an intriguing alternate, one I've not yet tried.

We each continue along the bike path by Blackie's Pasture (named after a the local dead horse), along Greenwood Beach which parallels Tiburon Ave with its curiously large traffic volume, then eventually empty out onto Tiburon Ave. I've always ridden Tiburon back over 101 to return to the bike path. But this MotionBased route follows Strawberry Drive to Seminary Drive, following a frontage road south to cross 101, returns north on the opposing frontage road, then takes Hamilton Drive and Roque Moraes Drive. I hope I can remember that... I've seen riders turning onto Strawberry, and always suspected I was missing something. Next time I'll find what that is!

This is all too complex for words. If I tried to describe the rest of my Paradise Loop ride, I'd never finish this thing. The best way is to follow someone else. It's worth the effort: an excellent, scenic route so close to San Francisco, one in which the car drivers seem uncharacteristically patient, the air especially clean, the climbs especially invigorating. Even if it has the scent of the elite about it.

Oh, yeah... the run. The next day I ran my longest run, ever: 12.8 miles in San Francisco. I'll have to put off describing that, though. This has gone on too long already, and I barely made a dent in describing the Sunday ride!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Low-Key running

Metcalf profile
The Metcalf Mauler
In the spirit of Low-Key, I decided to run the Low-Key Hillclimb up Metcalf Road. I wasn't at all surprised to see Gary Gellin there, as well. Gary also ran nearby Quimby Road, and clearly understands a runner's relative disadvantage is less the steeper the road. Metcalf, with a 12% sustained grade until the final half-mile or so, is an excellent opportunity for a runner to impress.

I started a bit ahead of Gary. We skipped the brief "promenade" section, moving ahead to where coordinator Gary Griffin would honk the horn to indicate the start. The rules of Low-Key are the rules of the vehicle code, which means bikes ride to the right, but of course runners are not thus constrained. So we each set off on the left side of the road, I starting a bit ahead. Unfortunately, I retained my lead ahead of Gary for at best 10 seconds, before he came by with an incredible speed differential, leaving me smiling to myself that such a pace on this hill was possible. Soon he was gone, the next time I'd see him was at the finish-line food, where he told me he's run a 7:36/mile pace up the hill. That's just amazing: a 3:19 marathon pace.

Gary Gellin
Gary finishes with elite company
Stephen Fong photo
Once Gary was gone, it was just me and the bikes. Of course, the leaders surged by in a flash. I knew I wouldn't be slowest up the hill, but where in the crowd I'd be able to call home was an open experiment. Riders passed quickly, then less quick, then finally I slotted over in what seemed a decent position.

Not long after the start I realized I'd forgotten to start my watch. This was just as well: it kept me in the moment. It's easy to do on Metcalf; the road rises steady, steeply, curve after curve.

I have to admit it was fun following riders up the hill. I managed to pass a few, but more whom I followed were able to pull away.

at the top
I arrive much later
Stephen Fong photo
Finally someone called from the side of the road, "that's the end of the steep part!" As a cyclist, this is of course good news. Click, click, click with the up-shift, keep up the pressure, accelerate to the line. But as a runner, I wasn't glad to hear it. Runners can upshift as well, of course: lengthen the stride behind, reduce the emphasis on arm-swing. But the cyclists clearly gain the upper hand. And not long after, I heard the unmistakable sound from behind of an overtaking rider. Mei Xi came by.... my brain shouted "get on her wheel!", but of course it wasn't possible. She rode away.

The 200 yard sign appeared. I opened my stride, kept the focus on relaxation, and tried to lengthen my stride more. The finish! I gave my number to the fantastic volunteers, and went to get some liquid after the unseasonably hot climb. I recovered quickly: I felt as if I could do it again. A good sign: I was adapting to running, clearly! Not that long ago I'd have been incapacitated for days. But also a bad sign. I clearly hadn't been able to push myself hard enough. But that's not a bad thing: it indicates room for improvement!

Later, I ran back down to the start. This wasn't bad at all: I felt relaxed, loose. The descent was fun, even if I ran slowly. When I arrived at the bottom, I fetched my bicycle off Greg McQuaid's roof-rack, and redid the climb. 12:02 of embracing the pain and I was back at the top. Ah! Much better. Running is fun, a wonderful diversion, a novel experience, but cycling is where my heart is.

Friday, November 14, 2008


It is such an enormous relief to me that Barack Obama's electors won, and I look forward to Obama's and Biden's forthcoming victory in the Presidential vote and subsequent inauguration. He's a new face for this failing nation, an intelligent, articulate leader who demonstrates actual vision over tired, lazy, anti-intellectual, self-serving dogmatism. When Wednesday morning dawned and support for Obama's electors was confirmed, I felt a weight which has accumulated over the years lift. It was like the first sunny day after weeks of overcast and rain.

Yet, unlike many, I am not ready to celebrate. Our national paradigm must now change, and while Barack has given glimmers of hope that we will now move in the correct direction, the inertia of big money is of unprecedented magnitude in this history of our nation and, I suspect, in the history of the world. For years, the federal government's actions have been virtually indistinguishable from what one would predict based on the assumption its goal is to transfer as much wealth as possible to its big-money donors. Can this possibly change?

Our society is so incredibly warped, an engine designed where citizens are little more than "consumers". Indeed, the term is used so interchangeably, the term "human" can almost be discarded: we are now Homo Emptor. Indeed, it is now axiomatic that our very well being is measured by how much currency changes hands, the liberal flow of currency a surrogate for human freedom.

no big box!Can we rise above this fanatical religion of consumerism and property, whose zealots are far, far more damaging than even the most deranged terrorist? Isn't it incredibly clear that well being is not maximized by how much we buy? That we coexist, indeed are dependent upon, an Earth whose health demands that our "productivity" be recognized for the destruction it really is?

During the election, Obama admitted we would need to learn to "live with less", to "live within our means". Yet he was painfully lacking in specifics. And no sooner did he become the presumptive President than he's calling for more economic stimulus. Economic stimulus is a good thing, surely, but not consumer stimulus, we need stimulus of the economy of well-being, of the economy of society, of the economy of a healthy planet. Consumer stimulation is what has generated so many of our problems. It's time to rise above the religion of big-box profits.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Low-Keys get some quality time

Well, we're up to week 7, down to the final three weeks of the 2008 Low-Key Hillclimbs. Two weeks of quality over quantity before the Thanksgiving Mt Hamilton Road finale. This week, a classic, and a first-timer for Low-Key, the Metcalf Mauler, 1.8 miles of 12% grade:

Metcalf photo

Then next week, it's Lomas Cantadas in the Berkeley Hills. I like this one, as it's BART-friendly, within walking distance of Orinda BART, and while not as relentless as Metcalf, offers a tough finish topping out over 15%:

Lomas Cantadas

Thanks to all who've supported the series! We're already planning for 2009! Alba, anyone?

On the running side, I'm planning on ditching the bike for Metcalf, inspired by Gary Gellin (who's much faster than me) who ran faster up Quimby Road than I often run on the flats:

It should be fun! Then, after that, Run Wild For a Child in Golden Gate park.

Results from the Embarcadero 10k:

It appears I'm on the slow end of the fast tail of the population, although as the analytic curve shows, the results follow a log-normal distribution quite well. Still, room for improvement, I hope!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dolphin Embarcadero 10km run

Low-Key!Since 1995 I've been involved with the Low-Key Hillclimbs, with a silly gap from 1999 to 2005. I really love the concept of low-key events: no high entry fee, no plastic bag of landfill, just friends, fun, and competition. After riding Saturday's Low-Key Hillclimb up Jamison Creek, I attended my first-ever Dolphin Running Club Embarcadero 10km. Wow -- what an experience! This was the first 10km I did since, I believe, 1991, at the latest. I recall doing a 10km while at MIT, maybe as late as 1990, then I did the Dish Dash early while at Stanford in 1991 (less than 10km, but hilly), and another 10km at Stanford. I trained for these events, including speed work at the track, so I produced what for me seemed good times. My recollection was 41 minutes for 10km. Maybe slightly less. Certainly not less than 40 minutes.

Chi RunningWhen my friend Nathan suggested Chi Running to me it sparked in my mind the chance to give running another try. Carl Faulkner, a previous co-worker who since joined a Buddhist monastery, had also recommended I try running. Burned out from a long cycling season in which I feel I didn't accomplish what I'd hoped, I decided I needed to infuse some freshness in my athletic life, and decided to see where running could take me this "non-competitive season". So with the help of my excellent cycling coach Dan Smith, and with the running advice I learned from Chris Griffin's Chi Running clinic (and, of course Danny Dreyer's incredible book), I started training, setting as a first goal a solid 10km race, and seeing if I could scale that to a marathon, perhaps Austin, at which I'd previously volunteered as a wheelchair race cycling pacer back around '98-'00 when I rode with Violet Crown.

The race was curious. I started second row, but at the go, was immediately swarmed. One after another rider passed me. What was wrong? Eventually I settled into a crowd near my pace. The answer to my question came when I glanced at my watch at the first mile marker: 6:35. In training on tempo runs I'd managed to get my per-mile pace down to 7 minutes: I was already 25 seconds per mile faster than this. The answer: nothing at all.

I focused on form: relaxation, breathing, cadence, relaxation again. Running is very Zen, meditative. It provides its own cadence, its own tempo, itas own music. I really don't understand the popularity of i-Pods when running: they're a discordance, a dissonance, with running's natural harmony.

Eventually I hit the second mile marker: running miles are a lot longer than cycling miles! I'd lost 10 seconds on this second mile relative to the first. I wanted to try and hold onto this pace, to not settle into the comfort zone, to keep applying the gentle pressure which is necessary for a good result. Yet with the pressure to not break form, to stay relaxed despite the effort.

I began passing people. One guy commented as I passed, "as long as you're not in my age group!" I didn't think I was, but one can never be sure. Running, like cycling, is about consistency. Even pacing until the end, when you can afford to tap into the last glycogen reserves which would inhibit a subsequent effort which will no longer be given.

I watched for mile three. I could see the baseball stadium ahead: "if you reach the stadium, you've gone too far!" Returning runners, including one woman.... Sooner than I expected, there was the chalk mark, not for the third mile, but for the turn-around, it seemed. I'm virtually neurotic about my navigational ability, convinced I'm doomed to take wrong turns. There it was, a thick arrow bent into a half-circle with a horizontal line on the sidewalk. Turnaround, surely! But what if I was wrong? Runners behind me.... I couldn't afford a mistake. I hit the line and turned, touched my watch to trigger the lap time. After a few seconds of regaining my rhythm, I looked behind. There they were. That must have been the mark. I then saw the 3 mile mark I'd missed. Good. Silly paranoia? Perhaps, but perhaps justified from prior experience, and from a low tolerance for personal errors.

The return leg: I tried to pry every efficiency out of my route selection. Apex corners as possible. Transition from sidewalk to asphalt bike lane efficiently with minimal impact. Navigate around the pedestrian crowds as seamlessly as possible. And with every few strides, probe my body for tension: focus on the tension, and release it. Flow.

A runner behind, one I'd passed. I could hear his footfalls. A glance behind confirmed his presence. Was I going to be repassed? The footfalls faded. I glanced behind, and he was gone.

4 miles down. Ramp it up, ramp it up. This hurts, I thought, why am I doing this? The thought was pushed under, rejected.

5 miles down. Two runners ahead. I couldn't see their number tags, but surely they were in the race. One man, one woman. The woman was the lead woman: I'd seen only one on the turn-around.

This was it, the essence of performance. To relax into the effort. To release myself from self-imposed limits. To embrace the discomfort, the pain, while maintaining form. To accelerate toward the finish.

The woman fell behind the pace of her companion. The gap was closing. I didn't think I could close it, but flushed that thought from my mind: negativity is toxic.

Jefferson Street: the finish was close. Cara on the side of the road, cheering me!!! I wanted to acknowledge her, to wave, but I wanted to close this gap, and it could be very close. Car traffic, traffic lights. I knew there wasn't a chance I (or any other runner here) was going to wait for a red light. Fortunately, I got green on each of two lights on the street, the second just barely. I wasn't so much approaching the finish as the finish was approaching me... closer, closer. Oliver Chan, a race volunteer and Low-Key Hillclimb participant, called my name... The woman and the finish line converged. "Congratulations, first woman!" (cheers) The line reached me seconds later. Twelfth overall, eleventh male. "Good job!"

Wow -- the pain of the last miles was immediately relegated to the satisfaction of what I'd done. There was Cara, smiling. 41:16. Very solid. Forty minutes seemed a real possibility for the future. Marathon? I didn't want to think about it. I was just happy with my 10 km today.

pacing plotPost-race analysis of my split times was promising. My first and last 5 km were virtually identical. There was an anomaly associated with the 4 mile mark: if I assume this was accidentally placed 1 mile from the turn-around, rather than from the 3 mile marker, then my splits make more sense. Comparing the placement of the marker, near the Ferry Building, with that on the race map, close to Steuart Street, supports this hypothesis.

So how to get better?

Well, for one thing Cara reported my torso was bent forward, my shoulders hunched, my arms stiff. She said those around me were much more fluid. This is a key: economy of motion. Chi Running preaches a relaxed upper body, rotation about the spine, a relaxed yet deliberate arm swing. These are the form focuses I need to follow in the coming weeks.

But the other thing is to just get in more fast runs. So far, I've done only two interval sets. I'm still on a steep adaptation curve. With each passing weak, my recovery from runs improves. I'm more limited by muscle weakness than by my cardiovascular fitness. I know my cardiovascular system is sound from my cycling results. The key is to get my musculature to the point where I can fully utilize it. So there's room for improvement there.

3%. That's all I need for a sub-40. I know I can get there if I stay on target.